STARKVILLE, Miss. — The second quarter took forever. For Mark Stoops, it must have seemed longer. Mississippi State marched up and down the field. Kentucky couldn't keep up. That's what happens when you keep shooting yourself in the foot.
Truth be told, there's a reason they build those huge casinos and hotels in Las Vegas. When Mississippi State opened as an 11-point favorite over visiting Kentucky, the first time this year UK had been a double-digit underdog, some people wondered why.
There was no asking why on Saturday night.
Led by their star senior quarterback, Dak Prescott, the Bulldogs were too much for Stoops' Cats and then some, rolling to a 42-16 victory at Davis Wade Stadium.
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The Cats will hear the clanging of those MSU cowbells and the PA announcer bellowing "touchdown, Mississippi State" for a while to come.
But back to that second quarter. Kentucky led 10-7 at the end of the first quarter. Then the wheels came off.
State drove 75 yards on seven plays to take a 14-10 lead. State drove 69 yards on five plays for a 21-10 lead. Then after a Kentucky interception, the Bulldogs glided 80 yards in just three plays to make it 28-10.
"It got away from us there at the end of the first half," Stoops said.
By halftime, the Bulldogs had 336 yards in total offense. By the end of three quarters, the total had reached 499, the most against a UK defense all season. And there was still a fourth quarter to play.
Mississippi State ended up with 586 yards of total offense, the most against UK since Georgia gained 602 yards in Stoops' first season.
"They have some good, big guys that were hard for us to match up with," Stoops said.
Oh, there were some offensive errors and curious coaching decisions. Stoops called timeout just before a 48-yard Austin MacGinnis field goal with the score 14-10. After the timeout, MacGinnis missed. It seemed to have a deflating effect.
In the third quarter, down 28-13, Kentucky drove to a first-and-goal at the MSU 2-yard line. But offensive guard Ramsey Meyers was called for a dead-ball personal foul, and the Cats couldn't overcome the mistake. They settled for a field goal.
State was in no mood to settle. The Bulldogs zipped down the field, covering 75 yards in seven plays to make it 35-16. Kentucky had settled for three points. Mississippi State grabbed the full seven.
That was pretty much the story of the night. Kentucky struggled for what it could get. Mississippi State took what it wanted.
For all the frustration with the Kentucky offense missing opportunities, the UK defense has regressed in recent weeks. It couldn't get Auburn off the field last time out, allowing the Tigers to convert 11 of 18 third downs in a 30-27 loss.
Saturday night, UK put absolutely no pressure on Prescott, who had all day to throw. The senior took full advantage, completing 25 of 35 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns with one interception, his first of the season.
Before Saturday, Prescott had not run the football as much as in previous seasons. That changed against Kentucky. The senior gained 117 easy yards on just 13 carries. He scored three touchdowns. On at least a couple of those scoring runs, Kentucky failed to get a hand on the Mississippi State quarterback.
There was a good reason why Stoops said last week that this would be Kentucky's biggest challenge of the season. State was bigger, stronger and more experienced. And they were playing at home, where — kudos to AD Scott Stricklin, former assistant AD at Kentucky — the Bulldogs have a game atmosphere as good as any in the SEC.
Yes, Stoops has done a better job recruiting. Yes, Kentucky is a better football team this year than last. But this Saturday night in Mississippi showed that the Cats have a long way to go.
Almost as long as that second quarter.